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Training and Sims

HiDef Flight Sims

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Our friend, DT contributor and crusty aviation gumshoe Bob Cox has a great story running on Military​.com today about the Air Force’s high speed new flight sims.

L-3 Link Simulation and training has developed the SimuSphere that improves on the visuals and computing speed of current sims to make images at near visual quality, or 20–40, Cox reports. He said it looks like Luke Skywalker plinking wamp rats in his T-16 back home (or flying the thunder run down into the Death Star’s power core).

Link’s new simulation systems incorporate the latest developments in high-definition video, off-the-shelf digital imaging technology developed for animation and gaming, and a “physics-based environment generator” that allows creation of up to 30,000 interactive images in a single simulation.

The simulation is driven by dozens of networked PC-type computers made from readily available commercial components, such as Intel dual core processors and $400 graphics cards, installed in industrial quality cases with greater cooling capacity.

The end result is video imaging that is of 20–40 visual acuity, only a little less than perfect eyesight. Previous generations of simulators were no better than 20–80. Schaefer says the only thing preventing even better images is that existing projectors cannot yet generate 20–20 images at jet aircraft speeds.

“A lot of our competition, you can see a piece of that technology, but they can’t deliver the whole package,” Schaefer said.

Read the rest of the story here and be sure to watch the vid…

— Christian

Rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a DoD-sponsored Blogger’s Roundtable with U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Wobbema, Chief of Staff for the Coalition Air Force Transition Team. His job? Help rebuild the Iraqi Air Force.
With the recent MQ-9 Reaper kill that we talked about here on DT, my first question was if UAVs were going to be included in the the future Iraqi Air Force. With ISR assets (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) such a large part of any operation, I was curious if the success of any Coalition UAV ISR program is in the cards. COL Wobbema’s reply:

I do not think that we have any kind of unmanned vehicle program established in the long-term planning. Basically what we’re Iraqi Air Force.jpgdoing is we’re using a manned form of the same type of intelligence-gathering equipment in the form of a Caravan, a Cessna Caravan, that we’ve put an ISR suite on, which is operated by a sensor operator that’s actually flying in the aircraft.

My next question centered around what sort of aircraft the Iraqi Air Force can be expected to be flying in the near future:

Well, in the future, of course, you know, I’ve been a fighter guy my whole career, and a lot of the Iraqi air force pilots are all former fighter pilots. And, of course, if they had an unlimited budget and didn’t want to worry about anything else, we’d be buying F-16s, F-18s for them. Or they would be buying them for themselves. That’s what they’d be wanting to do.
But we have to walk before we can run, and right now we’ve got some C-130 aircraft on the ground that they’re operating. There are some MI-17 for the rotary-wing side. They’ve got a few Hueys. And then we’ve got this Cessna Caravan. The Cessna Caravan will also become — there will be an armed variant of that that will come online. And then they’ll move into — the next iteration will be a light– attack aircraft of some sort, probably a propeller-driven kind of light-attack aircraft that can take care of their most immediate need, and that is to deal with the insurgency that’s taking place inside their own borders.
From there, then, it will migrate to being able to develop an air defense capability to protect their borders from outside influence. And then, from there, you know, who knows? At some point in time I suspect that they will ultimately migrate to becoming a fully integrated part of the world community.

Thinking back to the air order of battle that existed in Iraq 17 years ago, those days are far in the future. Currently any external threat that may require a robust air defense capability can and will be handled by coalition aircraft that remain in theater or are operating offshore from carrier strike groups. Same goes for Close Air Support (CAS), either on-call from a CAS-stack or some form of alert launch, in support of ground operations. Self-determination from a military aviation perspective is in in the cards, but not for a while.
COL Wobbema has a number of other fascinating things to pass on in this interview and you can read the article from DefenseLink News here or read the transcript of the roundtable here.
Above photo shows members of 52nd Flying Training Squadron standing in formation as the first students arrive to the Iraqi air force flying training school at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. This flight was officially the first sortie flown by the school as the four Iraqi air force students took control of the aircraft for a few minutes in transit to see what it is they are working toward. The school will instruct the students in both fixed– and rotary-wing piloting. Photo by Senior Airman Jeremy McGuffin, USAF
–Pinch Paisley

Virtual Gunfights

Monday, April 9th, 2007

The mad scientists at the Office of Naval Research have just signed a contract to build two high-tech battle simulators for Marines to practice their lethal trade in a virtual environment.

Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral William E. Landay III has announced the funding of a $1.3-million “Tech Solutions” project to deliver advanced infantry immersive training to Marines. This project will field two systems by the fall of 2007. The first system will be installed in the I MEF Battle Simulation Center at Camp Pendleton, California, and the second will be installed in the new Marine Expeditionary Rifle Integration Facility opening this summer near Quantico, Virginia.

The Infantry Immersive Trainer (IIT) is one of several virtual environment training projects that recently emerged out of a decade’s worth of Office of Naval Research (ONR) science and technology investment. IIT will focus on treating Marines and Sailors and their supporting equipment (e.g., weaponry and information systems) as an integrated system to enable Naval warriors to win and survive in battle

The requirement for infantry immersive training was initiated in the spring of 2006 by Lieutenant General James Mattis, the current I MEF commanding general, while he was commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. The U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command has incorporated this requirement into the Squad Immersive Training Environment Urgent Needs Statement.

Both the Army and Marine Corps have taken increasing advantage of realistic simulators that help infantrymen and other troops deal with the stresses of combat and the kind of shoot-no-shoot situations that often crop up in urban combat environments and counterinsurgencies.

For a while now, the Corps has been using FATS trainers for their troops and has migrated into using them for convoy practice, close air support training and artillery coordination. Range space is at a premium these days and with ammo resources devoted increasingly to the war, troops have fewer and fewer opportunities to train with the real thing.

The value of simulated training for ground forces is certainly debatable, but you cant ignore the impact aircraft simulators have had on keeping aviators current and better prepared for in-flight emergencies. Ive seen Marines and Soldiers use simulators like these for several years stateside and at prep bases in Kuwait and they seem to get real value out of them.

Officers and NCOs are big fans of the simulators because they allow Soldiers and Marines to make mistakes in a non-kinetic environment, so when they do get a few hours on the live-fire range, they can really concentrate on their TTPs rather than have to rehash basic rifleman skills.

– Christian

Command sims cut through fog of war

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

168445422_5bb0f6c5a9.jpgFor a couple years now, Iraq-bound soldiers and Marines have benefited from realistic training featuring Arabic-speaking roleplayers, Hollywood special effects and “insurgents” portrayed by highly trained U.S. troops. Now their commanders can get in on the sim-Iraq action with a new digital command and control (C2) architecture at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., as I described in a recent National Defense article:

Arguably the most important technology leveraged by deploying units are the digital Army battle command systems that provide leaders at all levels real-time situational awareness on the location of their units to squad level, Brig. Gen. Michael Barbero, Fort Polk commander, said in an interview.
Accordingly, JRTC simulates the complex command-and-control setup that underpins operations in Iraq. Patrols sortie from simulated forward operating bases that boast tactical operations centers featuring all the same systems commanders might employ in Iraq.
The Army battle command systems are made up of several software packages, each designed for particular missions.

These include, among others:

The maneuver control system, [which] collects real-time battlefield information and displays it graphically. It interfaces with the blue-force tracking system which plots the locations of individual vehicles on a digital map.
[And] the battle command and sustainment support system [that] processes logistical, personnel and medical information, generates near real-time reports and updates a combat service support database every three hours. It fuses data from satellites, radio frequency identification tags, interrogators and transponders to track and display the locations of vehicles and cargo.

The C2 architecture facilitates real-time command of forces in the JRTC box. The digital architecture enables Fort Polk training staff to pass down intelligence and orders from simulated division and joint task force headquarters. It also helps simulate operations that cant be conducted live because of range and airspace limitations, as well as shortages of available systems such as bombers and aerial drones.
The better your training, the better your results in combat. Now if there were only a simulation for the kinds of cultural encounters that make all the difference in Iraq. Oh wait — there is!
–David Axe

Going Hollywood

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

I’ve been meaning to plug a terrific new site, World Politics Watch, and today gives me the perfect opportunity — a story from DefenseTech contributor David Axe, titled “Military Training Goes Hollywood.“

To better prepare its troops for tough counterinsurgency warfare, the U.S. military is investing in super-realistic exercises that combine traditional live-fire training with sophisticated cultural instruction and Hollywood-style special effects that blur the lines between training and combat.
At the start of the so-called Global War on Terrorism, the military’s combat training infrastructure reflected an entrenched Cold War mentality.…
That was then. Five years later, NTC and JRTC have transformed into high-fidelity simulations of Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with mock towns, Iraqi expatriates portraying restive natives, “insurgents” played by highly trained soldiers and sophisticated scripting and assessment that ensures U.S. troops are prepared for the latest challenges in evolving conflicts. The Marines, with a much smaller training establishment and less money, have launched their own small-scale realistic exercise while also sending units to the Army’s events.

World Politics Watch, by the way, is the brainchild of Hampton Stephens, a former Inside the Air Force editor and colleague of mine who’s created a unique news service covering foreign policy, national security and international affairs. Bookmark it.
Dan Dupont

Sim Air Control

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

The Army’s reorganization into lighter brigade combat teams with less artillery has forced it to rely more on close air support. At the same time, close-quarters urban battles have made air support a trickier and more urgent affair than in previous conflicts. But different languages and incompatible ways of doing things have kept the Army and Air Force from working closely together.
JAGOG.jpgThe Joint Air-Ground Operations Group at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas aims to change that.
The group’s four squadrons teach six courses for as many as 5,000 students per year. On the Army side, JAGOG instructs command staff, forward observers and fire support officers in how to talk to the Air Force and best integrate its aircraft into their operations. On the Air Force side, the group instructs ground-based and airborne controllers in the language of ground forces and methods for supporting them from the air.
One of the neato tools at JAGOG’s disposal is a new 360-degree dome simulator (see pic) that drops student forward air controllers into an Iraq-esque scenario featuring tough moving targets and itchy Air Force jet jockeys looping overhead. The controller must spot the target and talk in attacking pilots.
Right now the sim is at the Air Force lab in Mesa, Arizona. But soon it should make its way to Nellis and daily use by JAGOG trainers. Where can I buy a ticket?
–David Axe

Sim Victory in Sim Iraq

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Ft. Irwin, California — It’s 110 degrees here on the southern edge of Death Valley when Alpha Company storms Medina Jabal. On July 27, twelve days into their two-week exercise at the National Training Center, the Soldiers of Alpha Company are resigned to the heat, if not accustomed to it. After just a few minutes exposed to the blazing sun, sweat soaks their gray and tan combat uniforms and leaves salty white deposits on their 25-pound armor vests. They drink water religiously and, whenever there’s a lull in operations, seek the nearest shade.
Alpha’s tribulations at NTC are shared by all the 10 5,000-soldier brigades annually that train here before deploying to Iraq. Their trials are part of a accelerating trend across the U.S. military services of providing ultra-realistic training to its troops.
ntc.jpgFor Alpha, right now there’s no time for rest. The commander of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, Col. Jeffrey Bannister, has ordered Alpha — from the 1st battalion of the 9th Infantry — to secure Medina Jabal in advance of his July 28 meeting with the regional governor. All over the Rhode Island-size desert range, 2nd Brigade units are engaged in mock combat with “insurgents” from the resident 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, but the most important fight is here at this tiny, shambling village of concrete and plywood buildings. Victory in this simulated Iraq, just like in the real Iraq, hinges on hearts and minds. If Bannister is going to win over the local populace, it’s going to happen here when he stands up with the governor (portrayed by a Kurdish Iraqi national) and promises a better future for the residents of Medina Jabal (played by Iraqi nationals and local actors).
But the insurgents know that, and they will focus all their efforts on wrecking Bannister’s carefully orchestrated event. Down at the 11th ACR’s operations center in the heart of Ft. Irwin, staff officers plot 2nd Brigade’s movements on a map and consider their options. With Alpha moving into Medina Jabal, it’s going to be hard to slip in fighters. Someone proposes an Improvised Explosive Device smuggled in a truck. Another pitches mortar barrages. Snipers are an option too. And if Alpha interdicts all these efforts, then the 11th ACR — the so-called “Opposing Force,” or Opfor — can send teams to harass the brigade’s Forward Operating Bases, including its vulnerable helicopter base at FOB Miami, in an effort to draw Bannister’s attention away from Medina Jabal.
But Alpha seems to know exactly what the Opfor is up to.
Read the exciting conclusion at Military​.com. And check out my NTC photo-essay at Flickr.
–David Axe

Ooo-rah, MySpace!

Monday, July 24th, 2006

AP: “Teens looking to hook up with a friend on the popular web community MySpace may bump into an unexpected buddy: the U.S. Marine Corps.“
usmc_myspace.JPGSo far, over 12,000 web surfers have signed on as friends of the Corps in response to the latest military recruiting tactic…
The Marine Corps MySpace profile… featur[es] streaming video of barking drill sergeants, fresh recruits enduring boot camp and Marines storming beaches…
So far over 430 people have asked to contact a Marine recruiter through the site in the five months since the page went up, including some 170 who are considered “leads” or prospective Marine recruits.

Teaching the Army

Friday, July 7th, 2006

The small organization tasked with making sure the Army learns from its experiences is growing to keep up with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Center for Army Lessons Learned, or CALL, based at Ft. Leavenworth in rural Kansas, has grown from 30 to 130 people since 2003 and has doubled the number of teams it sends out to combat zones.
“CALL captures contemporary, current, near-real-time observations, insights and lessons from the Global War on Terror,” says Col. Larry Saul, a Vietnam veteran and CALL director.
CALL’s collection “mechanism”, Saul says, is threefold:

* It has eight deployed liaison officers serving six-month tours that report back lessons from the front: two in Afghanistan and six in Iraq. Saul says he’s looking to add another two to Iraq as well as two to Kuwait.
* Collections and Analysis Teams consisting of as many as a dozen officers deploy for six weeks to study particular problems — “say, Improvised Explosive Devices or aviation operations or management of a command post,” Saul says. CALL can support four teams at a time and is budgeted for around 20 deployments per year.
* Finally, Army units send their After-Action Reports to CALL for analysis and dissemination, “particularly after a significant operation,” Saul says.

“After collection, initially we do a hasty analysis looking at those things that might provide solutions to a life-threatening situation, looking for a gold nugget. Then we develop and determine the best proactice [to address the problem]. Later on, we do a more deliberate analysis of the problem.“
Read more at Military​.com. And visit my Flickr to see pics of one Army organization that relies heavily on CALL: The Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana.
David Axe

The Fort Polk Road Show

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Realistic training for Iraq-bound units is in high demand these days. And despite the proliferation of high-fidelity simulations — at Fort Polk’s Army Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Irwin’s Army National Training Center and the Marine Corps’ Mojave Viper at Twentynine Palms — there still isn’t enough capacity to train up all of the approximately 20 combat brigades at a time that deploy to Iraq. road show.jpg
So the bigwigs at Fort Polk have come up with a plan to take JRTC on the road. The idea is to package up the basic elements of JRTC’s Iraq sim, including pyrotechnics experts, combat-vet observer-controllers, an opposing force trained in insurgent tactics and some of the simulation gear (including the new-generation MILES II laser-tag) and deploy it to brigades’ home stations, where the JRTC “road show” will take over some local training ranges and run a compressed, bare-bones pre-deployment exercise.
It won’t be cheap, considering that Fort Polk JRTC rotations cost around $10 million apiece and don’t include the Road Show’s transportation costs. But, as JRTC spokesman Maj. Eric Baus says, “What cost is too much” when it comes to preparing troops for Iraq?
Right now the JRTC Road Show is just an idea. But with the military training community better resourced and more motivated than ever after three years of war, expect it to become a reality very soon.
See my Flickr for JRTC pics. Read more at Military​.com and The Washington Times. And check out my graphic novel WAR FIX.
–David Axe